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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Coogee and Bronte

When I first saw the topic photograph above, I immediately thought it looked like Bronte Beach, particularly because of the little steam train you can see running in the park, but I see it is in fact Coogee Beach c. 1900, which lies to the south of Bronte, with one other beach called Clovelly  in between. These beaches and the iconic Bondi Beach all form part of a string of beaches that lie south of the Sydney CBD. By the way, the 'oo' in the name Coogee is pronounced to rhyme with the 'oo' in cook, not as in 'coop', if that makes sense. The name apparently comes from an Aboriginal word meaning 'smelly place' due to the seaweed on the beach, but that isn't a particular problem these days.
 We spent the second night of our honeymoon in a motel up the hill on Coogee Bay Rd before heading to New Zealand for a two week holiday and have since returned several more times, staying at a rather better class hotel just opposite the beach. Of course much of that hill you can see in the photograph is now fully built up, but not far away on a headland between Bronte and Clovelly lies the substantial Waverley Cemetery, where the residents who include many famous Australians have enjoyed sites/plots boasting prime views since the cemetery was first established in 1877.  
I have never seen a model train at Coogee and have not discovered anything about its history, but clearly there was one operating way back when the topic photo was taken. A similar train still runs at Bronte however and this was a favourite family picnic place when we lived in Sydney  We initially rented a semi-detached house within walking distance of Bondi but even after we moved across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and up to the North Shore, we would battle the traffic and drive back down to family-friendly Bronte  for a pleasant afternoon there in the park beside the beach. Our children would have been running down the grassy slope towards the Bronte park, rather than away from it like the gentleman captured in the Coogee photograph. According to the Waverley Council web site, Bronte was named not after the famous literary sisters but after Horatio Lord Viscount Nelson. After Nelson and his troops captured Sicily in 1799, the King of Sicily gave him the additional title of Duke of Bronte, which is a town in Sicily.

Coogee Beach is part of the neighbouring council of Randwick, and you can read about its present day features and facilities and see current beach photographs here on that Council's web site. Just off the beach and out of the picture is a rocky outcrop called Wedding Cake Island, which helps make Coogee a much safer beach than some others nearby that are more open. Under the lee of the southern cliff side are a couple of enclosed saltwater swimming baths,  including McIvers Baths, established in 1886 for women and children only. According to the Council web site, 
"[McIvers] is the last remaining women's-only seawater pool in Australia and has been in continuous use since its establishment. The State Government granted the pool an exemption from the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act in 1995. They are open only to women and children. There are numerous other nearby ocean pools that are not restricted including Wylie's Baths, Ross Jones Memorial Pool and Giles Baths."

 Here's another photograph of Coogee Beach from the Power House Museum Collection on Flickr Commons, showing the aquarium in the distance, c 1920-1930. The aquarium dome still exists, but it is now simply part of a hotel.

Below are a few photos I've found in my albums showing some of our visits to the Bronte beach train back in the 1980s. 

Riding the miniature train back in 1981 with first daughter Claire, aged about two

By 1986 it was all aboard for  our 3 children 

These snaps of the nearby playground and the train were taken in 1989 when Laura our fourth and last child was aged about two. All four are having a ride here, with one up the front, two with their father in the second car, and big sister waving from the third one.

Apparently the Bronte train has been in operation in the summer months since 1947. When not in use it is housed in a neat covered shed at the side of the track. The original driver/operator Kevin Colman who established the train passed away last year aged 86, but someone else has been driving it for the last few years. There would probably have been a public outcry otherwise!

 If you are ever in Sydney, there is a great cliff top walk between Bondi and Coogee and this includes a spectacular art exhibition of more than 100 works called Sculpture by the Sea that is staged annually in November along the section between Bondi and Tamarama, which is a beach just north of Bronte. Then if anyone's feeling really fit and energetic, there's also an annual swim between Bondi and Bronte, but I prefer to walk and admire the views.

Here is a collage of photographs taken over the years at Sculpture By the Sea. Many interesting works can be viewed beside the coastal path, on the beach and sometimes even floating in the sea itself.  I think part of the Waverley Cemetery can be glimpsed in the far distance in the top right hand picture.  

For more beach views, model trains, running men, escapees and other things related to this week's prompt, check out Sepia Saturday

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Family letters for happy occasions

I don't really have copies of any soldiers' letters written home, so instead I thought I would share a few letters with you that were written about happy family events. My grandmother Mona Morrison's first cousin was Nellie Ferguson, a daughter of  Charles James Young, who was a brother of Mona's mother Jane Isabella Young. In this first letter she provides Mona with a comprehensive 'eye witness account' of Mona's daughter Jean's wedding, an event that had been held a few days earlier on 22 April 1950. 

P. 1

I won't include all the pages,, because being on thin paper with another letter on the back, they are a bit hard to read, but here is a transcription of Nellie's 6 page letter for you. [I've added in a few explanatory nores in square brackets].

"Ashburton April 26/50
Dear Mona,
You have all been in my thoughts very much lately & now things may be quiet after the excitement I thought you might like a few lines, an eye witness account, to let you know how Banks and I enjoyed the whole function on Sat. The church grounds made a picturesque setting for guests & the bridal party on their arrival. Derek was a good church warden, handing out the hymnsheets as if he was used to it, but then he is used to handing out bank notes. [I think Derek worked as a bank teller at that point] A nice idea with bridal hymns specially printed. Saves time and confusion for those like myself whose eyes are dim & difficult to sort out the numbers in book.
There were time to notice the artistic bowls of flowers in the church &, to see the bride's mother and aunties sitting in state. My sympathy was with you for no doubt your heart was beating faster than usual. Mine was!
The bridegroom and his officials looked brave and calm as they stood by to await the arrival of the bride & maids.
We listened intently to the strains of the organ & for when he would change the tune. It was eyes right for us when that moment came, in fact it was all eyes on when the smiling bride arrived escorted by her father. It must be a terrible moment for a father to give his daughter away especially when she is so charming. Nevertheless John did not look at all concerned re the ordeal. The right man in the right place.
There was a lot to feast our eyes on as the two of them walked slowly & stately up the aisle. Jean looked a picture in her beautiful wedding gown and veil. My thoughts flashed to Pat & how she would have loved to have seen Jean in all her glory.
There are few brides, if any, fortunate enough to have a sister to shop in Switzerland. One might read of it in a book.
The beautiful all over lace was exclusive and altogether lovely & the frock being made by an exclusive dressmaker left nothing to be desired especially when worn by Jean.  I know of a pudding Bess used to make & Dick named it "Bess's Masterpiece". Definitely that wedding gown could be named thus, only the pudding was made in a minute, not so the gown. Wasn't  it thought that the final finishes might have had to be done as the bride walked down the aisle!!  [Dick was the younger brother of Bess, who was a professional dressmaker].
The bridesmaids made a pretty pair & their moss green frocks, together with the red roses enhanced their beauty & fair hair.
Those frocks also put another feather in Bess's hat. The lace mittens Pat sent were very nice too.
We knew the officiating minister was the Rev.D. McKenzie by his scotch accent, having heard him [?]. He did his job well in assisting the bridal pair to tie the knot. The knot that is tied with the tongue but cannot be untied with the teeth.
How clearly Jean and Ian made their vows. We could hear every word very distinctly. Naturally in Jean's profession [of speech therapist] she would know how to articulate her words correctly. Usually one only hears a muttering sound by the said parties.
Ian's sister sang very sweetly & the song so appropriate for the occasion.
I like the idea of the minister acting as a forerunner for the bridal procession. Surely that will help to stem the tide of confetti.
When you'd all proceeded to the Takehe we had a reunion of relations and friends. Met Dick & Margaret & Co when we arrived at 5.30. Margaret and I both admitted we'd have met and not known each other, but Dick couldn't say that. The children were all bright and smiling. The wedding would mean a big event for them. They were armed with cartons of confetti.
It was good to see Flo. and Bess & glad they came with us for the ride to Takehe, gave us more time to hear things,. It was a pleasant surprise to meet Ivy Power. I may not have seen her before but there is no mistaking she's an Andrews. It was nice to have a chat with her. Jack and Dorrie too. I've the same complaint as Jack! Old age creeping on & no use denying it.[I'm not sure what that complaint was, but when Nellie was writing this she was only 57, and Mona was 53]. Jack reminds me of Ed. It's a long while since I've seen Leslie and Jack Davies. They have not altered much. Jim Tourance ? hailed me with "Hello, Nellie or Jennie, which are you?" [Jennie was Nellie's sister]. I couldn't help calling his wife Beulah, the name is so familiar. Had a chat with the Littles. [neighbours of Mona and John].  [?] couldn't think who I was but soon recognised my tongue.
What a grand place the Takehe is, quite unique.  Wonderful for a wedding reception & John and you looked quite at home. That was my first chance to see you and you looked your best and very smart. I could see you during the breakfast and you'd such a lovely colour & the pretty spray toned in beautifully.
There was a wonderful spread on the tables & I can assure you we did justice to all the good things.
Mr Jennings made a first rate toast master & carried off proceedings most satisfactorily. We enjoyed all the speeches & should have moved for John's time to be extended. The bridegroom did well also. I liked the Shuttle Service between you & Littles & the very natural  account of the first time Mr L met Jean. I could picture it all. The cake was "Mona's Masterpiece". Pat on the back for the good job you made of it. It was delicious.
It was nice to be in the thick of the party at the house. Another chance to have a close up look at the dear bride & maids in all their lovely finery & another chat with kith and kin. We were glad of the opportunity to see all the presents.
You had a big task in serving all the guests. No wonder we didn't see each other till the bride was leaving. Jean looked smart in her travelling rig out & Ian and her quite enjoyed the sendoff amid the showers and deluges of confetti.
What time did you get to bed that night & have you picked up every piece of confetti yet? Let me whisper, I saw your new carpet in sitting room. It's lovely and really caught my eye.
Now dear Mona, John and you are to be congratulated on the way you both rose to the occasion & carried everything off in such good style. Banks and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I know it was a case of  "So say all of us"! We will ever remember Jean and Ian's wedding with great pleasure.
We hope to be in Ch[rist]ch[urch] during holidays & will give you a ring. Beulah's taking Graeme's book back.
I would say it's time to stop Mona, you'll be getting tired reading this.
Trusting you and John & family are well,
Much Love,
6th and final page of Nellie's letter to Mona

I hope you enjoyed my transcription of Nellie's letter and didn't get tired reading it. The sign of the Takehe is an impressive reception centre in the Cashmere Hills, built in the style of an English manor house. It was severely damaged by the Christchurch earthquakes and is still closed while reconstruction and reinforcement takes place. By the way, the Morrisons were strict Presbyterians and there was no alcohol served at the wedding, so all the toasts would have been made in fruit punch made up by a local hotel 'or lemonade for the more hesitant', as my mother said in one of two aerogrammes written on the morning of her wedding, after she was woken up by the 'milkman's clattering'. The wedding wasn't until 5 pm, so she had plenty of time to  describe in detail all the arrangements, the  flowers and her mother, aunts and future mother-in- law 's intended outfits to her absent sister Pat.  She told Pat she had bought  her Aunty Bess 'a string of white pearls as an extra for all the hard work she has done for me  - she's been sewing day and night'. 

 I imagine Mona would have shown Nellie's letter to Jean when she and Ian returned from their honeymoon, and she then wrote her own account of the proceedings on the reverse side of each page (you can see her writing showing through the thin paper) and sent the whole thing over to her other daughter Pat, who was working in Switzerland at the time. Luckily for me the pages are all well numbered.  I haven't transcribed Mona's letter, but there are some amusing things in it. She starts off by saying it will not be a long letter as she just posted one on Monday, but then has no trouble filling up all six pages, with lots of chatty gossip about what had been happening with various friends and relatives, including a story about how Jean had gone out with them to visit her in-laws and was worried that Ian wouldn't be able to get in when he came home from work, but when he did so he found she had left the front door undone. Mona mentions they were experiencing power black outs at the time, and how this caused problems when people were out late and had to find their way home with no street lights. 

Mona writes very naturally, just as if she were speaking to Pat, describing everything around her, for  example The five male members of the family are all around the fire, Derek, Graeme and Peter are playing draughts & Dad looking on while Puss is slumbering on the mat and enjoying the fire'. The other male family member absent was Mona and John's oldest son Ken, who had been killed in WW2 about 7 years earlier, and his loss would still have been keenly felt by his whole family.  Mona and John wrote to Pat every week over the many years that Pat lived and worked abroad, and Pat methodically kept all their correspondence.  Many of the letters have since been read and discarded by my mother, but I convinced her to keep a few. There's also one from Mona 'scribbled under the drier' at the hairdresser's the day before the wedding, in which she goes into great detail about the new carpet mentioned by Nellie that was purchased specially for the big occasion. It has 'bright autumn colours in it, greens browns rust fawn & a little mauve' and she's made new curtains to go with it. Mona says she'll have to start calling the front room the lounge now, which looks very much bigger with the wall-to-wall carpet. In a postscript added after the wedding she mentions Derek handing out the hymnsheets 'much to my surprise', and tells Pat how 'John stood on Jean's train and a groomsman knocked over a vase of flowers as he came in but that was all the slips in church'. In other extracts, she comments that Ian's sister 'sang a beautiful solo, went back to her seat and cried and cried, I don't know why'. After the reception 'Dad invited the the crowd home to see the presents and have a cup of tea and I'm sure the whole 80 came. I don't know how we fed them but we did. I said after I would have had a pink fit had I  known so many would come'.  The new carpet must have survived the onslaught of visitors, because I'm sure Mona would have told Pat if it hadn't!  John Morrison had also just bought himself a new car, and the song Nella sang at the service was "All joy to Thine".

 An earlier letter dated 17 March 1949 was written in much excitement when when Mona discovered that Pat's book about the history of Christchurch entitled The Evolution of a City was on display in the bookshop window for 12/6 d. 'It is quite a decent sized book, nearly an inch thick, not a paper covered one as you thought.' Lots of details about how they had found out it was available, and that they would send Pat a copy as soon as they could get one. 'Dad is going to see Mr Batchelor & thinks he might get a free copy'. 'It was a great thrill to see it, and I'll be dying to get my hands on it.'

Here's another letter written by Nellie, this time to Jean while she was in St Helen's Hospital Christchurch, lying in after giving birth to her first child ( yours truly), and hence it's filed in my baby book

This very pretty envelope was hand painted by Nellie's talented daughter Beulah, who often won prizes for her artwork. It contained the following letter.

"Dear Jean,
It was wonderful to see your name shining on the front page in "Press" today. We are delighted to know you and Ian have a wee daughter & that you and baby are both well. There is so much to be thankful for in the life given and the life spared.
We all extend to you & Ian our heartiest congratulations & feel sure you both will have every reason to be proud of your little girl.
After we'd learned the news Beulah and I were so thrilled we didn't want to do any work. 
We wanted to see you and baby! There will be great joy at 2 Aylmer St with Granddad, Grandma Aunty and Uncles, especially Peter when his niece arrived on his birthday. 
Well Jean,you will enjoy your little holiday, every day will be full of interest & I trust that you and baby are progressing & growing stronger each day. 
Also that you are receiving all the attention that is your due, for I've not the slightest doubt that you will be a pet patient. 
Much love from us all, & hoping to see you and baby soon.

In some ways it's rather sad that my parents decided to leave New Zealand and move Australia only a few years later, because as a result we missed out on getting to know cousin Nellie and the many other members of our parents' extended families.  I've never met Beulah, although I expect she met me as a baby, but these days I am in touch with her by email.
 I only have a couple of photos of Nellie Mackellar Ferguson nee Young. The first one shows Nellie with her widowed mother, grandmother and siblings and was taken in 1909 when she was about 16. 

Celebrating 125 years since the arrival of the Young family in NZ. Top row, left to right:Muriel Wilson (nee Young, d/o Uncle Ted), Jack Young (brother of Muriel), Maisie Hearfield (Young), Norman Young (brother of Muriel), Jean Ambrose (Young), Jack Davies (son of Aunty Pheme). Front Row, Dorothy Coughlan, Mona Morrison, Nellie Ferguson, Ivy Dawber, Margaret Young (Uncle Fred's daughter).

This second photo taken in 1971 shows Nellie and Mona in their later years. Nellie is in the centre front row sitting next to Mona in floral dress, when they were attending a gathering held to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the arrival in 1851 of their Scottish grandparents/great grandparents Charles and Jane Young in Christchurch NZ. Two others in the picture, Jack Davies and Ivy Dawber, previously Power, are mentioned in Nellie's wedding report. Mona passed away the following year and Nellie followed in 1974.

Finally, here are a few pictures of the wedding that was reported upon by Nellie, showing Jean with bridesmaid Jocelyn;  St David's Church where the marriage ceremony took place, which sadly no longer exists; with her parents John and Mona Morrison; Jean and Ian at the Takehe; and cutting the cake. The dresses do look beautiful, and Jean's lovely wedding dress now hangs in my wardrobe.

Jean and Ian cutting "Mona's masterpiece"

  Two of my Morrison  uncles, 20 year old Graeme and 15 year old Peter, getting to know their new niece. For a previous blog about the life and work of their sister/my Aunty Patricia Morrison, click here.

For many more letters written by many more correspondents on many different occasions, just take a look at  Sepia Saturday #241

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Whose mug is that?

As far as I know, none of my ancestors found themselves on the wrong side of the law, but I've selected a few photos here that look a bit like mug shots to me. They come from an old album of cartes de visites that originally belonged to my great grandmother's brother Frederick William Young, who won the album as a prize in the 1880s. None of the photos are named, and we've only been able to tentatively identify a small number of them.While they're mostly not staring straight at the camera, they look none too happy to be posing for their photographs and a couple have rather a spaced out look about them.

This last photograph above, and possibly one of the others also, is believed to be of Alexander John Paterson, a half brother of my great grandfather Charles Forbes. After her first husband died leaving her with five children, my 2x great grandmother Mary Forbes nee Anderson married again and had a further seven children with her second husband Charles Paterson. Alexander was their fifth child, born in Ballater Aberdeenshire in 1858. The family emigrated to Canterbury New Zealand when he was aged about two. It appears that Alexander was mentally disabled and possibly physically impaired to some degree also and couldn't take care of himself. In 1898 after his father died he was admitted to what was known as the Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum, where he died the following year, aged 40. Apparently he had once tied himself to the railway tracks waiting for a train to come. I was given this information about Alexander by a descendant of Mary Paterson through one of her daughters, who has viewed Alexander's Sunnyside file. 
 Sunnyside was the first asylum built  in Christchurch and you can read more about its history here. I imagine it was anything but sunny!  One famous inmate who spent some years there was the well-known NZ writer Janet Frame, who has written about her experiences there in her autobiography 'An Angel at my Table" and also in a novel called "Faces in the Water". I remember reading that story many years ago and being appalled by the treatment that was described by the author in graphic detail. 

I don't think there are any true criminals or convicts in my tree, but I do feel sort of responsible for one William Hollingsworth Butler, because it was as a result of the evidence given by my 3x great grandfather Thomas Key that William aged 16 was convicted of the felony of stealing, for which he was given a ten year sentence and transported to Australia in 1840. The case is detailed below in the proceedings of the Old Bailey of 2 March 1840:

2 MARCH 1840 
 William Hollingsworth Butler was indicted for stealing, on the 14th of February, 1 oz. weight of cotton, value 3d.; 4 oz. weight of thread, value 9d.; 18 yards of tape, value 9d.; and 12 balls of cotton, value 6d., the goods of Thomas Key; and that he had been before convicted of felony.
THOMAS KEY. I live at Praed-street, Paddington, and am a labourer - my wife [Jane Key] keeps a toy-shop, and sells cottons. I recollect about the 1st of February, hearing some glass falling in the street, (that was the first time the glass was cut) - I saw some boys in the street, and the prisoner was one of them - in consequence of that, I put some pasteboard up against the window. On the 14th of February I was in the shop, and saw the prisoner in the street - he plunged his hand into the broken pane, and I saw him extract sundry articles from the window - I ran out, and saw him drop the cotton just by the window - I pursued him, and in about half a minute he was taken in Market-street - when I stopped him, he fell on his knees and said, "Pray let me go; I have taken nothing, but I will discover to you the other parties who have taken your goods away" - I took him back to my shop, and gave him in charge - I know this cotton which I picked up to be mine - I bought it in Coventry-street - I lost other cotton from the window, which I had bought at the same place - I lost some thread also - the prisoner dropped this cotton, that I should stop and take it up, but I did not, and when I came back, Mrs. Starling gave me the cotton which she had picked up - I am sure it is mine, and that the prisoner dropped it - I had been serving some of it not two minutes before.
GEORGE MERRETT (police-constable D198) - I was on duty in Praed-street on the 14th of February - I went up to the prosecutor's shop, and the prisoner was given to me - the prosecutor gave me this cotton - I found on the prisoner this knife, the point of which is ground into the shape of a putty knife, and this piece of wire, which is made into a hook to hook things out.
Prisoner. I was walking home - this gentleman came and took me - my father used this knife to put up putty with. Witness. He told me it was for cleaning bricks, and he said at the station it was for cleaning tools.
ALFRED BLUNDELL (police-sergeant T 9.) I produce a certificate of the prisoner's former conviction, which I got at Mr. Clark's office (read) - the prisoner is the person who was tried.
GUILTY. Aged 16. - Transported for Ten Years"

So what happened to young William Hollingsworth Butler, son of James Butler, bricklayer, and his wife Sarah, who was baptised at St James, Paddington on 6 March 1825? He was transported to Van Diemen's Land, now better known as Tasmania, aboard the Hindostan, arriving there on 5 June 1841, together with 208 other convicts,  under what  must have been horrific conditions. No mug shot, but here is what is effectively his mug sheet, extracted from the Tasmanian convict records:

William would not have been much older or bigger than the boys pictured in the photographs above. The record says that he was born in Sale St, Paddington, London. He is described as being 4 ft 9 1/4 inches in height, of dark complexion, with a round head, brown hair with no whiskers, and having a high broad forehead, dark brown eyebrows, black eyes, a rather large nose and medium mouth and chin. There were  marks of some kind on his arms and chest. Under the heading Trade it says plasterer and bricklayer's labourer, and that of stonecutter seems to have been added as well. He received his certificate of freedom on 4 March 1850.
I haven't found out very much about the life of William Hollingsworth Butler after he was released, but it's possible he married someone called Ann Lee and moved to Melbourne. William and Ann had eight or nine children, but sadly the first six all died as infants, including two sons who were successively named William Hollingsworth Butler. One other son married but I can't find any offspring.  If there were any surviving descendants, I suppose they might not be keen to meet someone descended from a witness whose evidence helped convict their ancestor!

 That witness, Thomas Key, was a civilian in 1840, but had been a member of the armed forces in his earlier life, beginning as a drummer boy at the age of 14. In 1825 his regiment the 57th Foot was employed as the guard aboard the Hooghley, one of the ships that departed from Cork Ireland and brought convicted felons to Sydney. The commander of the Guard aboard the Hoogley was the infamous Captain Patrick Logan, who went on to command the penal colony at Moreton Bay in Queensland and was hated for his cruelty. Here is an account of the voyage aboard the Hooghley.  Thomas Key then served some six years with his regiment in New South Wales followed by seven months in India before being discharged back in England, where he subsequently married and had a large family. Thomas and Jane Key emigrated to Wellington New Zealand in 1856.

Click here to see drawings of both the Hooghley and the Hindostan.

I'm including the classic Australian ballad 'Moreton Bay' sung here by Ted Egan, because it refers to Patrick Logan, mentioned above. I certainly hope my ancestor Thomas Key did not treat the convicts the way Logan did.

To check out more mug shots, mug sheets and other connected matters, take a good look at Sepia Saturday #240